Bartow schools' budget cut across all levels
by Mark Andrews
Mar 13, 2012 | 4758 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Bartow County Board of Education on Monday voted unanimously to approve its budget reduction plan for the 2012-2013 school year, which includes additional furloughs, the termination of more than 20 employees and increasing the millage rate to 19.40 mills. The increase in the millage rate means an additional amount of about $60 a year in taxes on a house valued at $100,000.

"For the 2012-2013 school year, no school system employee is spared from our reduced work year, and subsequently, a reduction in salary," Superintendent John Harper said.

The central office meeting room was full of administrators as Harper presented his reduction plan to the board during a called meeting following the board's regular work session.

Despite concerns expressed online regarding middle school and high school sports, no activities will be cut. However, there will be a reduction in staff.

The largest reduction in employees approved dealt with media clerks, with each employee losing their position at each of the 19 schools for a savings of $297,152.

The reduction areas are as follows:

* STARS Pre-K at $342,872

* Three kindergarten parapro positions at $65,255

* Three elementary school teacher allotments at $195,000

* Reductions in middle school athletics staff at $48,696

* Middle school office staff at $62,268

* Alternative program at $129,000

* Driver's education at $198,301

* Reduction in high school registrars from 213 to 190 days at $13,310

* Transferring an assistant principal at $110,493

* Reductions in high school athletics staff at $97,920

* High school course offerings of 46 periods, unknown at this time.

* Full time retired teachers reduced to zero years experience at $159,509

* Media clerks at $297,152

* Seven teacher substitute parapro positions to "break even"

* Seven furlough days for all employees except 236 day employees at $672,052

* Reducing 236 day employees to 231 at $299,873

* Reduction from a 180 to 175 day instructional calendar at $158,800

* Reduction in system energy by 10 percent at $308,392

* Eliminating all non-competitive field trips for the 2012-2013 school year at $45,767

* Equalization reduction is at $59,480 (not acquired for this year's budget)

* Total revenue adjustments are at $3,145,183

* Millage rate increase of 1.5 mills at $3,114,338

"We're talking about people that work inside of our school system ... tearfully we've discussed what happens and it disheartens me greatly ... that we're looking at people and saying 'you don't have a position with us any longer,'" Harper said. "... These are good employees for us, there's nothing wrong with them, they're functioning well for us, and I'm the guy who has to stand in front of them and say, 'You don't have a job anymore,' and it breaks my heart."

Chief Financial Officer Todd Hooper and Harper have been reporting during meetings since summer 2011 an increase in employee health insurance handed down from the state that is expected to be "horrific," with a projected increase from $446 a month per employee in 2012 to $746 a month per employee in 2014. Both also cited a loss in equalization funding and what have been called "austerity reductions" handed down from the state.

"Essentially what the state has done over the last three years is diminish the money that they're sending us for our nurses in our schools and our nursing program, but I will point out to you the current cost to Bartow county [schools] is $716,000," Harper said. "The same situation with transportation, you see a constant decline there and ... this year for transportation [we received] $1,465,240 and transportation to run the busses and personnel cost $6,000,511."

Harper reported individual school systems have been consistently receiving less state funding as their student population grows. He said in the 2005-2006 school year, Bartow County had 13,818 students and received $64.4 million from the state.

"In 2011-2012, [we received] $62,706,000 with 14,035 children," Harper said.

Chairman Davis Nelson said he feels next year's budget may face similar difficulties.

"This has been an outstanding school system with outstanding children and employees, the parents and community leaders have loved this school district and supported it. The last thing any of us would want to do is impact somebody's job," Nelson said.

"As I looked at the list [of workforce reductions], many of those people I hired and now I have to look at them and be part of the ones who say, 'you don't have a job right now.' These are tough times and these people are left without a job, and those that are left [employed] will be doing it for less pay."

Other board members also spoke regarding the budget, including member John Howard, who voted last year to raise the millage rate.

"Over the past two years, we've cut about $5.6 million out of the teachers here in Bartow County, and I had voted last year to raise the millage rate, and I got a lot of flack for that, but I was elected to support the school system and unfortunately one of those [roles] is to make the tough [decisions]," Howard said. "It's not going to be a good year for us because people are going to blame us and they're going to look down upon us, but we know as a board, and especially our superintendent, that we're doing what needs to be done, and I appreciate the community looking past their initial upsetness about what's going to matter, they looked at our school system and knew we did all that we could do."

Board member Angie Cornett reiterated concerns that the local board was responsible for reductions in funding.

"If our decisions anger you or upset you in any way, direct [comments] to our state representatives because they are the ones who have chose to de-fund us and ultimately dismantle this school system," Cornett said.